In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
How can Islam be called the religion of peace when it was spread by the sword?
It is a common complaint among some non-Muslims that Islam would not have millions of adherents all over the world, if it had not been spread by the use of force. The following points will make it clear, that far from being spread by the sword, it was the inherent force of truth, reason and logic that was responsible for the rapid spread of Islam.
1. Islam means peace.
Islam comes from the root word 'salam' which means peace. It also means submitting one's will to Allah (swt). Thus Islam is a religion of peace, which is acquired by submitting one's will to the will of the Supreme Creator, Allah (swt).
2. Sometimes force has to be used to maintain peace. Not each and every human being in this world is in favour of maintaining peace and harmony. There are many, who would disrupt it for their own vested interests. It is precisely for this reason that we have the police who use force against criminals and anti-social elements to maintain peace in the country. Islam promotes peace. At the same time, Islam exhorts its followers to fight against oppression. The fight against oppression may, at times, require the use of force. In Islam, force can only be used to promote peace and justice.
3. Opinion of historian De Lacy O'Leary.
The best reply to the misconception that Islam was spread by the sword is given by the noted historian De Lacy O'Leary in the book "Islam at the cross road" (page 8) "History makes it clear however, that the legend of the fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurb myths that historians have ever repeated."
4. Muslims ruled Spain for about 800 years.
Muslim ruled Spain for about 800 years. The Muslim in Spain never used the sword to force the people to convert. Later the Christian Crusaders came to Spain and wiped out the Muslims. There was not a single Muslim in Spain who could openly give the adhan, that is the call for prayers.
5. 14 million Arabs are Coptic Christians.
Muslims wee the lords of Arabia for 1400 years. For a few years the British ruled, and for a few years the French ruled. Overall, the Muslims ruled Arabia for 1400 years. Yet today, there are 14 million Arabs who are Coptic Christians i.e. Christians since generations. If the Muslims had used the sword there would not have a single Arab who would have remained a Christian.
6. More than 80% non-Muslims in India.
The Muslims ruled India for about a thousand years. If they wanted, they had the power to convert each and every non-Muslim of India to Islam. Today more than 80% of the population of India are non-Muslims Indians are bearing witness today that Islam was not spread by the sword.
7. Indonesia and Malaysia.
Indonesia is a country that has the biggest number of Muslims in the world. The majority of people in Malaysia are Muslims. Which Muslim army went to Indonesia and Malaysia?
8. East Coast of Africa.
Similarly, Islam has spread rapidly on the East Coast of Africa. One may again ask, if Islam was spread by the sword, which Muslim army went to the East Coast of Africa?
9. Thomas Carlyle.
The famous historian, Thomas Carlyle, in his book "Heroes and Hero worship" refers to this misconception about the spread of Islam: "The sword indeed, but where will you get your sword? Every new opinion, at its starting is precisely in a minority of one. In one man's head alone. There it dwells as yet. One man alone of the whole world believes it, there is one man against all men. That he takes a sword and try to propagate with that, will do little for him. You must get your sword! One the whole, a thing will propagate itself as it can."
10. No Compulsion in religion.
With which sword was Islam spread? Even if Muslims had it they could not use it to spread Islam because Qur'an says in the following verse :
"Let there be no compulsion in religion : Truth stands out clear from error" [ Al-Baqarah 2 : 256 ]
11. Sword of the Intellect/Truth.
It is the sword of intellect, the sword that conquers the hearts and minds of people. The Qur'an says in Surah An-Nahl, chapter 16 verse 125 :
"Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and dispute with them in ways that are best and most gracious." [ An-Nahl 16 : 25 ]
12. Increase in the world religions from 1934 to 1984.
An article in Reader's Digest 'Almanac', year book 1986, give the statistics of the increase in percentage of the major religionsof the world in half a century from 1934 to 1984. This article also appeared in "The Plain Truth" magazine. At the top was Islam, which increased by 235%, while Christianity had increased only by 47%. One may ask, which war took place in this century which converted millions of people to Islam?
13. Islam is the fastest growing religion in America and Europe.
Today the fastest growing religion in America is Islam. The fastest growing in Europe is Islam. Which sword is forcing people in the West to accept Islam in such large numbers?
14. Dr. Joseph Adam Pearson.
Dr. Joseph Adam Pearson rightly says, "People who worry that nuclear weaponary will one day fall in the hands of the Arabs, fail to realize that the Islamic bomb has been dropped already. It fell the day MUHAMMAD (pbuh) was born".